Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this motion. I would like to share my time with my colleague, the hon. member for .
What I would like to do in my time is tell members about what I believe to be the core of Liberal economic policy as expressed in the motion and compare that with the economic approach of the Conservatives and the NDP.
In a nutshell, I would state that the Liberal position on economic policy is to build a richer Canada in the medium term.
Why a richer Canada? In part, because our citizens and their families want a better quality of life. And in order to create social justice, we must also create wealth. Thus, wealth must be created in the medium term.
Why in the medium term? Because, even though the economy may be doing quite well today, for reasons totally unrelated to that government, things will not necessarily always be that way and we need to focus on the medium term in a hugely competitive world that does not owe Canada a living.
Our position is to develop a series of policies to create a richer Canada in the medium term. There are basically two elements in that strategy. On the one hand, competitive and appropriate levels of taxation and, on the other hand, investments in order to bring about this richer Canada.
On the tax side, our position is that we need broad based reductions in personal and corporate income taxes, but balanced by the need for government investment to promote that growth and balanced as well by our commitment to a greener and fairer Canada. Our leader has stressed, in particular, the importance of deeper corporate tax cuts as a primary means of achieving the investment, the rising living standards and the jobs, jobs, jobs that we all want for ourselves and our children.
In particular, now that our currency is at par, now that we do not have the crutch of a weak currency to attract investment into this country, we need to create a new Canadian advantage. The new Canadian advantage in the Liberal vision, somewhat reminiscent of the Irish experience, is to tell investors that if they invest in Canada they will pay a whole lot less corporate tax than if they invest south of the border.
The second part of the Liberal approach is not only competitive taxes but investments in research and development, access to post-secondary education, infrastructure, commercialization and skills development. Those are the two planks of the Liberal vision of how to create a richer Canada in the medium term.
I will turn to the Conservatives. Whereas our focus is on a richer Canada in the medium term, they see everything through a short term electoral lens, influenced as well by a good dose of ideology. I will give a few examples to illustrate this point.
Whereas we believe in broad based tax cuts, the Conservatives, for electoral reasons, believe in narrowly defined, boutique social engineering tax credits. They, for example, would give credits and benefits to young hockey players but would deprive young violin players of those benefits. It is our view that the decision between hockey and violin playing should rest in the family and should not be determined by the government. That is why we would give tax relief to all and not just to a select few for electoral purposes. It is they, not we, who are the social engineers in this country.
The second example is that the Conservatives, for obvious electoral purposes, decided to cut the GST and to raise income tax to do that. Just today in the Globe and Mail, 20 out of 20 economists surveyed said that this was the worst thing to do, and we concur in that, but the Conservatives did it purely because they felt they would get electoral gain. I question that too. I think most Canadians would rather have a tax cut, giving them a better paycheque, than a penny off the price of coffee at Tim Horton's.
My last example is investment. We believe in investment as an important component of our growth strategy. The Conservatives do not. We believe in supporting research and innovation in universities. They slashed that in their almost two years in power. Why did they slash it? I guess they thought there were not many votes in it. However, we think it is the right thing to do for the country.
On post-secondary education, we would put $6,000 per post-secondary student into the pockets of the students. What did the Conservatives do? A paltry, demeaning, insulting, maximum $80 tax credit for textbooks. That illustrates the differences. We are driven by the medium term creation of wealth in this country and they are driven by short term electoral considerations.
Now I will turn to the NDP. The fundamental point about the NDP is that those members do not understand economics. They never understood economics and they never will understand economics. In effect, the NDP is mired in a time warp in the 1960s. The NDP today is like the British Labour Party in the 1960s. The NDP has never had the courage or the leadership to find its own Tony Blair to lead it out of the 1960s into at least the 1970s or perhaps it could get to the 1980s, the 1990s or the new millennium, but it has not. It is mired in the 1960s. It has no vision of wealth creation and no clue how to go about it should that be its desire, which is why that party will remain a marginal protest party.
I will concede that the NDP members, like us, favour a greener, fairer Canada, but where they fall down is that they do not have a clue about how to create a richer Canada and, arguably, they do not even want one. Canadians require a governing party that can manage the economy competently, and the NDP is back in the 1960s on that topic.
I will give the House one example. At the latest NDP convention, a motion was put forward by the leader's riding association that Canada should get out of NAFTA and out of the WTO. Those members also want Canada to get out of Norad, by the way. The NDP's official policy since 1997 has been that Canada should get out of NAFTA. That was delusional, clueless, irresponsible policy and it is still characterized in the neanderthal economic thinking of the New Democratic Party.
Globophobic, socialist Luddites.
Hon. John McCallum: Exactly, Mr. Speaker.
I remember well the debates in the late 1980s about the free trade agreement and I remember the NDP position. The NDP members would have constructed a wall around Canada to keep everything out, a wall so high that it would be reminiscent of the wall then prevailing in communist Albania.
Canadians can see through this. The vast majority of Canadians want nothing to do with a party of economic Luddites, which is why that party is marginal, why it will remain marginal and why it is not taken seriously by the people of Canada.
If a Tony Blair were to emerge and lead the NDP to sanity, then it might be a force. However, until that day comes, it is the Liberal Party and not the New Democratic Party that is and will remain the party of choice, the natural habitat for progressive Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure today to speak to the motion put forward by the member for . I am always inspired by his erudite words on economic issues. It makes a big difference for our party to have him leading us on economic policy but it also informs the thinking of the House. I am certain that if the Conservatives opposite listened closely, they could learn a great deal from members on this side about economic mantra in general.
The history of tax policy goes back quite a bit. In 1678, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, minister of finance to Louis XIV of France, said, “The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing”.
I would hope that over the last 400 years or so we have actually evolved from that and we can actually see tax policy for what it really is in the modern world: an opportunity, through reforming our tax system, to create economic growth, prosperity and a richer, fairer, cleaner and greener Canada.
There is a tremendous opportunity for governments in a large surplus position to actually reform the tax system to attract capital, to attract talent and to make Canada a global leader in what will be the fastest growing area of the global economy, that of clean energy and environmental technology.
I would like to discuss our capacity and our responsibility to reform our tax system in order to create a more open, richer and fairer economy.
The fact is there are many prescriptives that are being provided to the government by economists within Canada and outside of Canada as to what ought to be done with the taxes. We have not had meaningful tax reform in Canada since 1971 with the Carter commission. Since then, in fact the Canadian economy and the global economy have changed remarkably.
We need to reform our tax system. We need to lower taxes on investment and capital. In the old days capital was not as mobile as it is today. In the old days the tax system was used to redistribute income. Today it redistributes capital.
The fact is a country like Canada during an age of free trade and freer trade cannot afford to have higher capital taxes, higher taxes on investment and ultimately on productivity, and higher corporate taxes than our trading partners. Other countries have reformed their tax systems.
The hon. member mentioned Ireland. Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and the Netherlands have all reformed their tax system to create more economic growth and prosperity. The reason I mention some of the Scandinavian examples is for my friends in the New Democratic Party to recognize that in fact progressive social policy can coexist with innovative, forward thinking economic policy. It is not a zero sum game. It is not: if we cut corporate taxes somehow we are going to hurt education.
In fact, it is to the contrary. If we reform the corporate tax system and reform taxes on investment, we create more economic growth, attract more capital, build greater productivity so that we can invest in social programs that can help to have a fairer and more just society.
For my friends in the Conservative Party, I would like to speak to the importance of social investment. The OECD is one of the greatest organizations in the world on economic policy. It advises on economic, fiscal and broad based social policy. One of the prescriptives that it recommended in its 2006 report on Canada included improving the overall business environment by reducing taxes on corporate investment, fostering innovation, and ensuring fiscal arrangements are efficient, but it also put in its economic recommendations for Canada that it should tackle disadvantage and strengthen social development. It pointed specifically to the importance of early learning and child care not simply as a social policy but as an economic policy. This is what the OECD had to say:
|| Moving toward free early education for all three and four year-olds may also pay social and economic dividends in the longer run. This could be complemented by more affordable access to child care, especially for lower-wage working parents.
Therefore, as much as the NDP members do not recognize the importance of forward thinking economic policy to create a more just society, the Conservatives do not recognize the importance of a more just society and better social programs to create a more vigorous economy. This leaves one party, the Liberal Party, that actually understands that we need good social investment to have a competitive economy and we need a competitive economy to be able to afford good social investment.
That was the Liberal record in the 20th century but today the world has actually changed to the point that we recognize the need for environmental stewardship as a core mantra for public policy here in Canada and around the world.
A few months ago I attended a conference in Dalian, China. The World Economic Forum held for the first time in its 36 year history a summer Davos conference this year in China. At that conference the sessions included venture capital investment in clean tech, the growth of biofuels as an investment opportunity, and how to compete and succeed in a global carbon constrained economy.
If one just looked at the topics and did not know the nature of the conference, one would think one was at a Greenpeace or a Sierra Club conference, but no, these were the top CEOs from around the world, of the biggest companies in the world, gathering to talk about why investments in clean technology were going to lead to greater profits for their companies.
Many of these CEOs were not necessarily that progressive a few years ago on environmental policy. They have come to the conclusion that whether or not one believes in the science of climate change, whether or not one supports Kyoto, a CEO has a vested interest, but also a pecuniary responsibility to the shareholders, to prepare his or her company for what is becoming a globally carbon constrained economy.
Around the world, countries are individually, bilaterally and multilaterally putting a price on carbon because they recognize the importance of addressing the environmental mistakes of the past. As that occurs, environmental laggards will become economic laggards.
Canada has a huge capacity to compete and succeed in a globally carbon constrained economy if we put the right public policy measures in now. We need to not only reform our tax system to be more competitive in the short term, but in the long term we need to green our tax system. That means more than simply putting a price on carbon. That means putting in place incentives for consumers to invest in green technologies, to buy green technologies, and to basically make Canada not only a greener country but also more competitive.
One of the questions we should be asking ourselves is what tax reform, what economic reform, what policies should we be implementing as a country now to become a global leader in what will be the fastest growing area of the 21st century economy: the area of green tech, clean tech and environmental technologies.
Business leaders globally are ahead of governments on this and they are particularly ahead of this current government. I knew this government was not socially progressive. When I look at its budgets, I see it is not even economically conservative but, beyond that, the fact that it does not really take seriously environmental issues is actually creating an economic risk for Canada as other countries embrace environmental stewardship not only as a moral imperative but also as an economic opportunity.
Countries like Denmark are growing in fact because of past environmental responsibility and foresight to put in place the measures required to reduce carbon consumption, to reduce the environmental externalities of their economy. Today it is more competitive as a result of that foresight.
I would urge the Conservatives to recognize that in fact environmental responsibility brings with it economic opportunity. I would urge the NDP to recognize that in fact environmental responsibility can create the economic opportunity but that corporate profits are not necessarily a bad thing. We need the market engaged and we need the private sector engaged. Government cannot do it alone. We need all members of Canadian society, through the tax system, to play a role and build a richer, fairer and greener Canada.
Liberals believe in making the long term decisions that are in the interests of Canadians and reducing personal and business income taxes. The Conservative government cut the GST to raise income taxes, particularly on the poorest of Canadians. We need to cut taxes particularly for low income Canadians. We need to reduce marginal income taxes and we need to help all Canadians, particularly middle class and low income Canadians, to have the opportunity to compete and succeed, which they deserve, and to see the benefits for their hard work.
The Conservative government is the only government in the world that is cutting consumption taxes to raise income taxes. It is wrong. It is going in the wrong direction. It is trying to buy votes and that is at the long term economic--
Mr. Speaker, with your approval, I would like to split my time with the hon. member for .
I rise today to address the motion presented by the member for . The motion of the member for Markham—Unionville starts off rather well; it is surprising, but it does start off rather well. As I was reading this motion over initially, I was actually rather proud of him, at the start.
He advocates the lowering of taxes. This government, under the leadership of the and the , has lowered taxes by a whopping $41 billion.
My colleague calls for a reduction of the debt. Our government has managed to pay down an astounding $27.4 billion in less than two years.
Also, and in a fashion that only a Liberal could in this place, he calls for increased funding for programs like education and infrastructure, but we all remember, and this is what makes this so striking, that his Liberal government was the one that gutted the social transfer in the early 1990s. The Liberals are the only ones in this House who have ever taken a penny from these important programs, and in doing so often have set federal-provincial relations so terribly back to dangerous levels.
If the member does not believe me, maybe he should talk to some of his current Liberal colleagues, such as the Liberal member for , who once said that the Liberal government created a “tremendous vacuum in funding for universities throughout the country”, or the Liberal member for , who remarked that it was the “lack of federal leadership that has made post-secondary education the poor second cousin in public policy and the country will pay a price for that lack of vision”.
Is that the proud Liberal record on supporting post-secondary education that the member is talking about? Under the Liberals, Canada, despite the hard work of its citizens, began lagging behind many nations in the world in social and economic categories.
We are not making those mistakes. If the member opposite had read the budget or Advantage Canada, he would have seen that this government is involved in the most ambitious infrastructure initiative in Canada's history. It is no wonder the Canadian Urban Transit Association said our recent actions represented “welcome new investment in Canada's infrastructure”, or why the NDP premier of Manitoba, Gary Doer, called our infrastructure initiative “a very positive announcement”.
Under the Liberals' watch, the bridges became unsafe and the roadways were not maintained, yet they call upon this government to do even better. And that we are doing, and that is the best that can be done.
That is rich, but from my hon. colleague's motion it is clear that he is unfamiliar with budget 2007 and Advantage Canada, so let us take some time to highlight some of the work our government is undertaking to provide Canadians with an entrepreneurial advantage, a knowledge advantage and an infrastructure advantage. Hopefully this will serve to enlighten and make sure none of my learned colleagues in this House make the mistake of supporting this motion.
Last fall we launched a long term economic plan for Canada called Advantage Canada. It was designed to improve our quality of life and to make Canada a world leader for today and for future generations. Advantage Canada promotes five competitive economic advantages that we need in order to succeed in today's global economy: a fiscal advantage, a tax advantage, a knowledge advantage, an entrepreneurial advantage, and an infrastructure advantage.
I will talk about the last three advantages and how they help create the right conditions for Canadians and Canadian businesses and organizations to thrive.
Canada's entrepreneurial advantage is about putting in place the conditions for our businesses and entrepreneurs to invest, creating more and better jobs. This includes improving regulatory efficiency and reducing red tape and efforts to create a more competitive business environment. Strong and effective regulations safeguard Canadians and help preserve the environment. Overlapping regulations and unnecessary regulatory requirements put Canada at a competitive disadvantage.
We are committed to increasing market competition. A competitive marketplace meets the needs of consumers by providing them with more choices at lower prices. It also spurs investments by firms as they adjust to meet evolving consumer demands.
On July 12, 2007 we launched an independent competition policy review panel. The panel is studying Canada's competition and investment policies and will report by June 2008 on how these policies could be strengthened, helping ensure that Canada is well positioned to compete globally and attract investment.
We have also placed a priority on further strengthening Canada's economic union to better position our companies for success in the fiercely competitive global economy.
We are also working to help create a knowledge advantage for Canada. First and foremost this means building the best educated, most skilled and flexible workforce in the world.
The government has taken action by introducing a new labour market training architecture that will help Canadians get the training and skills upgrading they need and that employers want. In particular, the government has allocated $500 million per year to address the gap in labour market programming for those who do not currently qualify for training under the employment insurance program.
Building a knowledge advantage also means creating more effective linkages between immigration and future labour market shortages. This is why in budget 2007 we invested $1.3 billion over five years to help improve the economic and social integration of immigrants. We are making it possible for foreign students trained in Canada and skilled temporary foreign workers to apply for permanent residence without leaving the country.
Just as important, we are strengthening post-secondary education and making it more affordable for students and their families. We will increase support for post-secondary education by $800 million per year starting in 2008-09 through the Canada social transfer. This will bring total cash support for post-secondary education to $3.2 billion per year and it will grow by 3% per year thereafter. This significant increase in support will allow provinces and territories to invest according to their priorities in building a stronger and more affordable post-secondary system and ensure that it contributes to Canada's future economic success.
We are increasing by 1,000 the number of scholarships available to our best graduate students so that they can acquire the advanced skills so important to our companies.
To compete and win in the global economy, Canada must also be a leader in generating and applying new knowledge, research and technologies. This is why we have released a comprehensive science and technology strategy. The strategy recognizes the important contribution that all sectors of Canadian society can make by creating and using knowledge to address challenges and pursue new opportunities.
Canada is starting from a strong foundation of knowledge. For example, we are the G-7 leader in terms of research taking place in our public sector as a share of our economy. The strategy commits to maintaining this leadership position and building on it to create economic and social benefits for Canadians.
In budget 2007 the government put in place significant investments to strengthen our capacity for world leading research and translate it into competitive advantage. In particular, we have provided $350 million over three years to support centres of excellence in commercialization and research. These centres place Canada at the leading edge in key areas of research, including health, energy, the environment and information communications technologies. Together these measures will help ensure that Canada has the skilled workforce and the supply of new ideas necessary to compete in the rapidly changing global economy.
Through our building Canada plan we are taking decisive action in order to create an infrastructure advantage. This includes a federal investment of $33 billion in Canada's infrastructure, an unprecedented amount.
The significant stable and predictable funding for municipal infrastructure is being provided through an extended gas tax fund and maintaining the increased rebate in the goods and services tax that municipalities pay. The government is moving forward on implementing its infrastructure initiatives quickly in cooperation with provinces and territories. This is paving the way toward realization of key infrastructure projects.
As we can see, today's motion is based on such a flawed premise that the government will not be able to support it. It is likely even too far gone for a friendly amendment, so my friend may wish to consider changing his motion to more represent reality. For example, in the opinion of this House, the Liberals did not get it done. They may even wish that--
Mr. Speaker, I thank the for sharing his time with me and congratulate him on his new role. I know he will do a fantastic job in that office.
I welcome the opportunity to speak to the motion of the hon. member for .
At the outset, it is important to acknowledge my colleague's recognition of our government's efforts to lessen the tax burden on Canadian families, individuals and businesses. His motion correctly highlights that we have significantly reduced both personal and corporate taxes, as well as the national debt, in order to increase the competitiveness of Canada's economy.
Clearly, as an economist by training, he has a fine eye for effective economic policy. We appreciate his support and trust that there may well be others across the aisle who share his views but are somewhat resistant to be overly positive.
Accordingly I will take a little time today to reiterate what we have done so far on both tax and on the debt side of the ledger, with the hope that others might find the courage exhibited by my friend opposite to speak positively and publicly about the government's accomplishments.
It would appear, given the second portion of the motion, that the member for may be unaware of the positive work we have done with respect to investing in infrastructure, post-secondary education and so on. Therefore, I also will take some time to address what we have done in these areas.
With respect to reducing taxes, our credentials are solid and have been from the moment we assumed office. We have provided more than $41 billion over three years in tax relief for individuals and businesses. As the has noted often, there is more still to come.
We will build on the efforts and continue to create a tax advantage for Canada, which will fuel economic growth, investment and the creation of wealth. It started less than 18 months ago, in May 2006, with the 2006 federal budget. For those who have not read it, I have it here with me.
The document proposed 29 personal and business tax relief measures that provided more than $20 billion of personal tax relief alone. That sum, which represents more than the four previous federal budgets combined, helps me to better understand the praise of my friend of whom I referred to earlier. Clearly, he probably wishes that the previous government had taken similar action on behalf of Canadian taxpayers.
For example, he no doubt recognizes the wisdom of providing tax relief for each and every working Canadian through the introduction of the Canadian employment credit. I say this with all sincerity, who can argue with providing a tax credit to recognize the cost of work related expenditures such as home computers, uniforms and supplies?
Similarly, who among us would oppose the creation of the children's fitness tax credit as a means to encourage healthy, active kids by helping to cover the eligible fees up to $500 for enrolment in physical activity programs? Who would oppose the new textbook credit for students to help offset the cost of textbooks? Who would oppose increasing the basic personal amount that an individual can earn every year before paying federal income tax? Who would oppose a 1% point reduction in the GST that benefits all Canadians, including those who do not earn enough to pay personal income tax?
Who, one may ask? That would be the members of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. That would be the same party that opposed the government's fair tax credit plan, a plan proposed with significant measures to help Canadian seniors. As hard as it is to believe, the Liberals opposed tax fairness. In doing so, that means they are opposing helping Canadian seniors plan for a better retirement through an increase in the age credit amount and the historic action of permitting income splitting for Canadian pensioners. Frankly, it is very hard to fathom.
It should therefore not be so hard to believe that the same group of folks has not supported the long term plan to build a strong economy for Canadians, “Advantage Canada”, by creating key advantages, including a tax advantage that would set Canada apart from our competitors around the world.
Maybe it is a little hard to believe that Liberal members are opposed to creating a tax advantage for Canada to help us attract and maintain the workers and the capital investment that Canada requires to succeed and prosper in the 21st century.
Maybe it is a little hard to believe that Liberal members oppose a tax advantage that is fiscally responsible and that will build a stronger Canada and help to improve the quality of life for all Canadians.
It is also hard to believe, at least for those of us on this side of the House, that responsible people could oppose the creation of other key advantages envisioned under “Advantage Canada”, a fiscal advantage, an entrepreneurial advantage, a knowledge advantage and an infrastructure advantage.
How else are we to explain that at the first opportunity they had to show their support toward creating comprehensive advantages for Canada, the vote on Bill in the last session, Liberals said nay.
Those members said nay to the creation of the tax back guarantee, through which all interest savings from the reduction of national debt would be returned to taxpayers in the form of income tax redemptions.
Liberals said nay to the working families tax plan and the creation of a $2,000 child tax credit that would provide up to $310 per child of tax relief to more than three million Canadian families starting this year.
Liberals said nay to increasing spousal and other deductions in order to provide up to $209 in tax relief starting this year for a supporting spouse or a single taxpayer who was supporting a child or relative.
Liberals said nay to reducing the general corporate tax rate by 0.5% effective January 1, 2011.
Liberals said nay to establishing a federal foreign convention and tourism incentive program.
Liberals said nay to the introduction of the green levy on inefficient fuel vehicles.
Liberals said nay to predictable long term funding to the Canada social transfer to support post-secondary education, social assistance and social services.
I could go on, but I trust the general idea that I am trying to put forward here is very clear to everybody in the House.
The fact is the opposition tries to make all the right sounds and hit all the right buttons about lowering taxes, increasing productivity, investing in infrastructure and R and D, but when it comes to actually doing something about it and following through and doing the right thing, those members abdicate. It hardly inspires confidence in Canadians that they will actually do the right thing when they next get a chance. Let us hope that is many years away.
However, given the wording of the motion before us today, I am willing to give the opposition the benefit of the doubt. Soon the government will introduce the 2007 budget implementation bill. Members opposite will have the opportunity to walk the walk or talk the talk. They will be able to tangibly demonstrate that they mean business by voting yea and not nay to the tax measures that will benefit Canadians and help create the Canadian tax advantage.
For example, among other measures the Liberals can say yea to is the introduction of the working income tax benefit to help people who are out of work get back to work and over the welfare wall.
Liberals could say yea to expanding the scope of the public transit credit to better encourage individuals to make a sustained commitment to public transit use.
Liberals could say yea to increasing the lifetime capital gains exemption to $750,000 to increase the rewards for investing in small business, fishing and farming.
I look forward to the pending debate on these important matters. I hope I am not wrong in giving the benefit of the doubt to my friends across the way.
Mr. Speaker, this is a rather unique situation. Yesterday, the Liberals did not rise when the time came to vote on the throne speech. No one got up. We did not know whether they supported or opposed the speech. We do not know because no one rose.
Today, we have before us a motion that looks strangely like something the Conservative Party might have moved as the party claiming to be the alternative to the other government, but the two parties are cut from the same cloth. It is sad, but true about this Liberal motion, which is a little light on analysis. Here are some examples.
First, the motion says that the government must reduce taxes, but makes no mention of the fiscal imbalance or possible transfers to the provinces. The Liberals seem totally unaware that there is a will in this country, particularly in Quebec, to make sure money is transferred to the provinces and the fiscal imbalance is corrected once and for all. This financial issue was corrected in part in the most recent budget, but a significant part of the issue has yet to be addressed: the actual transfer of money, which includes ways of raising money and transferring it to Quebec so that it can carry out its responsibilities. The Liberals are silent on this.
They could have criticized the Conservatives, who have failed to finish the job and seem content with the monetary transfer, but do not go so far as to respect the recognition of Quebec as a distinct nation and eliminate the fiscal imbalance completely. On this point, the Liberals take more or less the same position as the Conservatives.
The same is true when it comes to reducing corporate taxes. I am very surprised. The Standing Committee on Industry issued a unanimous report with 22 recommendations that made one thing clear: the government should not make across-the-board corporate tax reductions, but targeted reductions. Why? Because some companies are making good profits from their economic activities, while others are earning much less. The manufacturing and forestry sectors are not turning a profit. If corporate taxes are reduced, the people in these sectors will not benefit.
We need to find ways to make targeted tax reductions, as the Standing Committee on Industry recommended. That means things like refundable research and development tax credits, loan guarantees and a series of measures that will create a favourable tax environment for Canadian companies so that they can compete on global markets.
If we reduce corporate taxes across the board without asking for anything in particular in return, the money will flow into the pockets of shareholders, who will continue to invest in what they believe is best for the company. There is a difference between the goals of corporations and the goals of the state. The Liberals and the Conservatives do not seem to be aware of this reality. However, their own members on the Standing Committee on Industry accepted the proposals and were involved in developing this global action plan to help the manufacturing industry that was applauded by the coalition of manufacturers and unions.
With regard to today's motion pertaining to productivity, we would have expected that this distinction be made, that recommendations different from the Conservative approach be made. But this is not the what we see with the Liberal's position.
The issue of the debt is being handled in a similar manner. We are told that we must quite simply reduce the debt. However, there is significant debate surrounding this issue. This year, I conducted pre-budget consultations in my riding; I had six meetings of at least two hours each with citizens from all over the riding. I took away one thing from those meetings: what discouraged them the most was that $14 billion in surpluses was used to pay down the debt. It is somewhat similar to a home owner obsessed with paying the mortgage. He absolutely wants to pay off the mortgage on his house as soon as possible and in the least number of years possible. In the meantime, the porch is collapsing and he does nothing about it.
That is the kind of problem we have in Canada. It is fine to use the surplus to pay off about half of our debt, but we have to reinvest the other half in infrastructure programs. We also have to ensure a more equitable distribution of wealth and implement a program to assist older workers who have been laid off due to globalization. These measures should be part of an overall industrial strategy.
If we want businesses to take advantage of investment tax credits so they can buy the equipment they need to be more competitive, we have to make sure that people who lose their jobs when that happens do not pay the price. We have to provide them with a decent living until they retire.
The Liberal motion does not address that. Now that they are the official opposition, they seem to be ignoring the issue. How disappointing.
Today is the day after the vote on the Speech from the Throne. They abstained from voting. Nobody knows whether they were for it or against it, just that they decided not to vote. I would have preferred to see four or five members rise, symbolically, to say that their party was against it, but none of them rose yesterday. Today, they have introduced a motion in an attempt to condemn the government. Theirs is a motion that sits squarely on the fence. Most of what the motion contains could very well have been supported by the Conservatives, or even proposed by them when they were in opposition. Obviously, the Conservative government will have to vote against it because of some of the things it says, but those are just details, really.
For example, the motion says that the government must avoid making mistakes such as breaking its promise not to tax income trusts. It is true that the Conservative's made the mistake of breaking their promise. They made a promise not to change the income trust tax, but they went ahead and changed it. Of course, when it came right down to it, that they clearly had to do something or income trusts would create very serious problems for the entire economy. We have to put this broken promise into context and in that sense, the motion generalizes.
The same goes for eliminating interest deductibility. The details have not been worked out. It seems to be the 's trademark to present ideas and then, once they are on the table, realize that there are some loose ends to tie up.
This was how he tackled the issue of automatic teller machines. One day, he said he was going to bring the banks back to their senses and the next day he had a meeting with them and said the status quo was not so bad. It was the same with retailers. He said we have to make sure prices come down faster; he has a meeting and says the market will sort this out.
The is sending out the wrong message. We saw this same lack of real analysis on the issue of interest deductibility. Again, it is clear that the Liberals did not get to the heart of this issue.
This motion is unacceptable to us because it systematically attacks provincial responsibilities in a number of jurisdictions, namely: infrastructure, research and development, post-secondary education, assistance to immigrants, recognition of credentials, and labour force training. For the Liberals, this is business as usual.
A majority of those activities are under provincial jurisdiction. They want to continue interfering in these areas when we know that action could be taken. For example, the federal government has maintained a reserve in the employment insurance fund for labour force training. There has been some devolution to the provinces, but part of it has been retained for a number of administrative programs, and there is a reserve. This money could be made available to Quebec and the provinces so they could use it to address labour force training needs. We do not want to find ourselves in the somewhat absurd situation that is happening in Lebel-sur-Quévillon. They are looking for mine employees there. Right next door, there are dozens and dozens of forestry workers. The Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec had asked that they be giving the appropriate training so they could become mine workers. No way of accomplishing this could be found, and we are going to bring in immigrants to do the work, while the forestry workers continue to be unemployed. There again, there is action that could be taken that was not taken and that should be taken.
So we are dealing with a motion that involves the level at which corporations are taxed and the size of the debt. It talks about driving greater productivity in Canada by making investments, but it gives no details about them, nor does it say what kind of action or what kind of policies should be put forward. This very general language makes no constructive contribution as compared to the position we would have expected from the Liberal Party.
When we talk about better access to post-secondary education, we have known the recipe for a long time. We have to be sure that the money is in the provinces’ hands and that the federal government stops interfering, as it did under the Liberals’ reign with the millennium scholarships. Quebec has to be able to manage its own money for education and decide where it is going to spend it.
That is the best way to improve access to post-secondary education. In fact, because of the loans and grants program we have developed in Quebec, which has unfortunately not been spared from the federal government’s budget cuts in this area, we still have an excellent system of access to training, and that must continue to be the case.
As well, the Liberal Party should have shown a little compassion in the way it worded this motion. It has nothing to say about older workers or workers on employment insurance, as if the question of productivity did not call for a little compassion; some is certainly required.
Earlier, I gave the example of older workers laid off by a company that is modernizing its plant. Often, those people have worked for 20 or 25 or 30 years for the same company. Until 1984, there was a program to help these people bridge the gap until retirement. Over and over, we have called for this kind of program to be put in place again. We succeeded in having an amendment to the Conservatives’ first throne speech passed, nearly two years ago now. We thought they would keep their word. They agreed to the amendment and they incorporated it, so that there would be a genuine assistance program for older workers.
In last year’s budget, rather than announcing the creation of the program, they decided to form a committee chaired by a former senator that was supposed to submit a draft report in September. When the end of summer arrived, we found out that the report had been postponed until January and still there is no program for older workers.
I asked the about this following his address during consideration of the Speech from the Throne. There is a reality here that people are facing and they deserve a solution. I was a bit disappointed, though, because the Prime Minister did not seem to know what I was talking about, even though the manufacturing and forestry sectors in Quebec and Canada are currently experiencing major difficulties.
Western Canada may well be riding an economic boom, but the should also be aware of what is happening throughout the manufacturing sector, which accounts for between 15% and 20% of the economic activity in Canada. Some of our citizens are badly affected by these layoffs. Yet the Conservative government shows no compassion, nor do the Liberals for that matter, because the very next day after the vote on the throne speech, they have introduced a motion in which they decide to say nothing.
It is the same with employment insurance. We have certainly put up a fight. I have been a member of Parliament for 14 years. Today is actually the anniversary of my election in 1993, and so it was exactly 14 years ago that I was elected to the House for the first time. We have been fighting hard for all that time. In truth, we would have preferred not to have to be here so long. I can humbly say that on the night of the referendum in 1995, I would have gone home, if we had only won. Today I would be living in a sovereign Quebec and would be very happy about it. In any case, we continued to fight and obtained some employment insurance pilot projects. These were not real changes to the act but five pilot projects that at least improved the situation of seasonal workers.
By the way, one of these pilot projects will expire on December 9, 2007. It enables all seasonal workers in 21 regions of Canada to receive benefits for five additional weeks over and above what is usually provided in the tables. However, if the fails to extend the current pilot project, the regular tables will come back into force on December 10. It is terrible for people in the seasonal industries to have a sword of Damocles like that hanging over their heads.
In the past, we forced the Liberal government to take action on this issue. Who could forget that Mr. Chrétien called seasonal workers beer-drinkers? In the end, we got a special program for seasonal workers. Nevertheless, it is sad that this has not yet become entrenched in law and that we still do not have an independent employment insurance fund to stop the government from dipping into it. The government must take action to extend the pilot project beyond December 9.
We are worried about the coming year. There has been a significant slowdown in manufacturing and seasonal industries. Furthermore, the rising Canadian dollar is having an adverse effect on tourism. In seasonal industries, people tend to work the minimum number of weeks to qualify for employment insurance.
People were going through an awful period of time known as the “spring gap”, when, for 4 to 10 weeks, they had no income left. After working 12, 15 or 16 weeks, they were entitled to the maximum number of weeks of benefits, but there was still a period of time during which they had no income. They had to resort to social assistance or cash in their retirement savings to support their families.
The pilot project gave people five additional weeks of benefits. It is due to end on December 9, and we are waiting for the federal government to take action on this issue. I was hoping the Liberals would take the lead by including this in their motion. After all, a society is not judged solely on the money it makes, but on how its wealth is distributed.
This week, Canada learned that only too well. A UN representative told us that when it comes to social housing, Canada is a little like a banana republic. We in Canada are not doing a very good job of fighting poverty. We are not using the tools we should be using, such as the employment insurance system.
During the previous session, this Parliament was considering Bill , a bill sponsored by a member of the Bloc Québécois. The bill remains before this Parliament still today, as a private members' bill. The three opposition parties are prepared to pass it. The government's decision to give royal recommendation is the only thing missing.
Passing the bill would mean profoundly changing the employment insurance system. It would correct the situation and provide justice to those who fought hardest against the deficit, through the 1990s and until today, namely, unemployed workers in Quebec and Canada. For they are the ones who paid Canada's deficit and, to date, the only ones who have not seen any return on their investment.
We, on the other hand, have benefited from a few tax cuts and an improved economy. Unemployed workers are the ones who paid. The screws were tightened for 10 years. They were forced into a very precarious financial situation and nothing has been done to correct or improve that situation.
If the Conservative government wanted to really do something to better fight poverty, it would give this bill royal recommendation. A precedent has already been set in this area, on a bill dealing with employment insurance. If it would only do so, people around the world would say that the Government of Canada took significant action to fight poverty and ensure a better distribution of wealth.
I would have liked to see the Liberals refer to this bill in their motion. Nevertheless, they supported it, as did the NDP. The Conservatives are the only ones at this time who refuse to breathe new life into this bill. This is not a question of encouraging people to become or to remain unemployed. That phase has been resolved.
Given the current employment rate, we have a problem of a different kind. What about the manufacturing jobs that were well paid? In my riding we see it every day. The $15, $16, $18 and $20 an hour jobs have become $8, $9 and $10 an hour jobs. Fortunately, inflation is not very high. However, in real life, this reduces economic activity in several regions. There is another way of dealing with this situation: we have to have a good employment insurance program enabling individuals, including older workers, to live decently until their retirement and allowing them to have a minimum to keep the economy rolling.
These programs were created for a reason. After the Great Depression—the economic crisis of the 1930s—we realized that we had to maintain the buying power of those who no longer had an income. The unemployment insurance program and the social assistance program were established to ensure that people would have a minimum to continue to live. Today, even though our overall economy is doing well because of the energy sector, those who struggle every day, who provide their labour in order to have an income and support their family, are waiting for a return on the investment.
This is not reflected in the Liberal's motion, and even less so by the Conservative government, which is determined to continue claiming that no efforts are needed in this regard. The Conservatives have already said that they supported the independent employment insurance fund. Let them show it, let them agree to adopt Bill and to give a royal recommendation. Then we will have a tangible measure to judge. Until then, Quebec wants nothing to with what the Liberals are doing today or what the Conservatives presented in the Speech from the Throne.
Mr. Speaker, I am sharing my time today with my colleague from .
It is unfortunate that the motion before us today misses the mark at a time when our manufacturing sector is in such a crisis. My colleagues from the Bloc have been describing the impact of this crisis in Quebec. It is at a time when our Canadian dollar has appreciated by 60% over the last five years in addition to high energy costs and fierce global competition. Frankly, I have trouble distinguishing between the approach of the government that got us into this crisis and the approach of the opposition with the motion.
Corporate across the board tax cuts, such as are being proposed or affirmed with the motion, simply are not needed and they rob the public purse of much needed revenue. Today the banking industry, for example, is making record profits. The last I read it was something like $16 billion. This is at a time when the average person still gets dinged every time he or she goes to the bank with high ATM fees, about which the government has done nothing.
It makes no sense to give tax cuts to oil and gas companies, banks and insurance companies with no strings attached. Surely we should not be subsidizing highly profitable industries that are largely insulated from international competition.
The corporate tax cuts of recent years have not led to increased corporate investment, in spite of many arguments to the contrary. Therefore, why should the average taxpayer be subsidizing tax cuts to highly profitable industries that are insulated from competition and thereby forgo billions and billions of dollars of federal tax revenue? This revenue is so desperately needed and should be invested in our communities for services and infrastructure across our country.
There already have been significant corporate tax cuts over the last several years. In 2000 there was a corporate income tax rate cut from 28% to 21% to be achieved by 2004. This was a huge tax cut, but it provided no savings for manufacturing because it had already reached that level. This is the one sector that continues to need protection from international competition. Thousands of manufacturing jobs continue to leave Canada and all the Conservative government and the absent opposition propose is another series of tax cuts that simply have not worked.
Those members pay no attention to the crisis in manufacturing. There is no strategy for the manufacturing sector, or the auto sector, or shipbuilding, or the many other Canadian industries, which are thrown into unfair competition because of the factors I earlier described. Yet these tax cuts cost Canadians billions and billions of dollars in lost revenue, from about $5.4 billion in 2004, now up to over $7 billion a year. Our corporate tax levels are not particularly high. One study I saw put them at the third lowest in the G-8.
The other problem is those members are affirming the GST cut in the throne speech, and the government will go ahead with it. The last thing we need to be doing right now is stimulating consumer spending when consumer spending is already quite high. The fear is this kind of increase will drive up interest rates and therefore be counterproductive.
I do not support the GST cut. What it will mean is that if a millionaire wants to buy a $100,000 Porsche, he or she would get a nice $1,000 tax break. However, a family that puts some money together and spends $500 on a new dining room set saves a measly $5. Those families would need to spend $10,000 in order to save a measly $100. The GST cut is not a solution. With that cut, which all economists agree is not the way to go, we will lose $5 billion in revenue, basically subsidizing the Porsches and the Ferraris. It could have been spent differently.
One of the many letters I have received from constituents talks about the desperate need for investment in our cities and in the services Canadians need. I get many letters calling for a national housing strategy and for investments in infrastructure, especially in transit and in water infrastructure, and also in our social infrastructure to ensure that our kids get the best start possible, that working people have the best chance to adjust to a changing economy, and that seniors and people with disabilities get the best care possible.
I believe the motion is contradictory. It calls for reinvestment in physical infrastructure, new technology, R and D, better access to post-secondary education, et cetera. Where is the money going to come from? From giving tax cuts to companies that do not need it? It makes no sense.
The Conservatives are taking Canada in the wrong direction. We saw in the throne speech that their direction will increase inequality and the prosperity gap. Middle class families will see their debt rise and their children's future narrow. We are already finding the quality of life in our largest cities diminished. They ought to be engines of the economy and hubs for cultural, economic and environmental excellence and yet we find our cities boxed in at every turn, neglected and underfunded.
It is sad, then, that the Liberals have abandoned their role of opposition. Last night on the vote on the throne speech, they sat in their seats motionless, mute and, frankly, muddled. At a time when we see the need so high among citizens across our country, I would like the opposition to tell the 70,000 families on the waiting list for subsidized housing in the city of Toronto, or the students who are seeing tens of thousands of dollars in debt pile up on their backs before they even get a start in life, or the people in our city who are stuck in gridlock with air that is increasingly polluted from the lack of transit, that the Liberals could not be bothered to stand in their places and vote in the interests of all Canadians.
I believe Canadians are looking for real leadership. They want a government that speaks to their interests. They are tired of political self-interest trumping the interests of Canadians. Corporate tax cuts and cuts to the GST limit our ability to make progress as a country. They take us in the wrong direction. I am very proud that our caucus stood opposed to that direction. We will continue to stand up for the principles and represent the interests that are to the benefit of the vast majority of Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking my colleague from Parkdale--High Park for splitting her time with me.
The Liberal motion pretends to be a proposal to drive greater productivity in the Canadian economy, but it does not go anywhere near far enough. Like the Conservatives' recent throne speech, the motion actually misses the mark entirely. There are far too many Canadians being left behind. Nothing in the motion is going to address the seriousness of the prosperity gap, the deep divide between those who have and those who have not.
The reality is that if the poorest and the most disadvantaged are supported, the whole community benefits. Everyone thrives. So does the economy. We need to close the prosperity gap. Only then will we be able to grow as a country and a community, neighbourhood by neighbourhood.
I would like to point out that the first step to increasing productivity would be to raise the minimum wage. The federal minimum wage was eliminated in 1996 under the Liberal government. This created real affordability problems for Canadians. Research conducted by the Canadian Labour Congress has revealed that a single person working full time in Canada needs an hourly rate of at least $10 an hour to reach the poverty line.
Initially, a minimum wage was introduced to ensure that anyone working would not be subjected to a life of poverty. Sadly and unacceptably, in most provinces the minimum wage is so low that even someone working full time for the entire year falls far short of this poverty line--far short.
The low level of the minimum wage is a key factor in the high rates of poverty in Canada and the persistently high levels of economic inequality. According to the latest data from the National Council of Welfare, almost 5 million Canadians, including 1.2 million children, were living in poverty in 2003.
The NDP has proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour to help alleviate some of the stress on today's working families. Let us imagine the inequity of a $13.5 billion surplus and 1.2 million children living in poverty.
I would like to focus on those children. Greater prosperity for our nation should include greater prosperity for our children. It is well known that good health and a good education when children are young give them an advantage in life when they are older. The research clearly shows that they will more likely be productive members of the community.
Today's motion does not include helping children who are living in poverty now. We need to invest in our children. We need access to quality, affordable child care. We need to invest in our schools. If the Liberals are serious about improving productivity, I hope they will vote in favour of the NDP child care bill when it comes up for a vote in the next few weeks.
While the motion does mention post-secondary education, and I agree that increased access to post-secondary education is key to increasing productivity, I am astounded to see that the Liberals are proposing this. It was while they had successive majority governments and successive surpluses that the cost of post-secondary education increased substantially. They had 13 years to keep the costs to students under control and to increase access to education. Instead, they let the costs skyrocket and left many young people unable to afford schooling that would give them the advantage in our highly competitive economy and allow them to make the contribution to our communities that they wish to make.
This Liberal motion to improve productivity, as with the Conservative throne speech, also leaves out any mention of affordable housing. If one does not have a home it is almost impossible to find a job, organize one's life or receive social assistance. An address is absolutely essential to survival in this country. More than 1.7 million households live on less than $20,000 a year and most of these Canadians are precariously housed. They do not own their homes and spend far more than 30% of their income on rent. This is money that is unavailable for food, prescriptions, school supplies, kids' clothes, transportation and senior care.
Guaranteed access to safe and affordable housing will go a long way to making many Canadians more productive. Affordable housing will also help families with children who struggle just to make ends meet, who struggle every day with the choice between rent or food. If we dedicate just 1% of Canada's gross domestic product to eradicating homelessness in this country, we will be able to provide the homes Canadians deserve.
I also need to point out that missing from this motion, and I might add glaringly missing from the throne speech, is 51% of the Canadian population. The poverty rate of single women is a staggering 42% and it is worse for single mothers at 48%. The average yearly wage for a full time worker living in poverty is $9,522. One person cannot live on $9,522 a year. That is less than $800 a month. That will barely cover rent in most cities never mind food. How can anyone raise a family on that? Many single mothers are forced to make ends meet with a shoestring budget such as this. They are told that this kind of desperation is as good as it gets, as good as it gets in a country with a $13.5 billion surplus.
In 2004, 394,800 women were working for minimum wage. That is 64% of minimum wage earners. The tragic thing is that women who are first nations or visible minorities have it even worse.
From the Statistics Canada report “Women in Canada” published in 2005, the poverty rates are staggering. Of visible minority women under the age of 15, 33% of them live in poverty and it is even higher for aboriginal women compared to women in general at 15.9%. That is unconscionable. If we look at the age group 25 to 44, the number of visible minority women living in poverty is at 29% compared to the general population at 14%. That is double the general rate. In total, 28.8% of visible minority women are living in poverty in this country. That is unbelievable.
This motion to increase productivity will do nothing to help our women. It is short-sighted and it is unacceptable. This motion, and again the throne speech, fall far short. They fail to address the needs of everyone, and that includes seniors.
One-third of Canadians between the ages of 45 and 59 feel that they are not prepared financially for retirement. These concerns are most prevalent among women, those widowed, separated or divorced, recent immigrants, tenants, those without private pension coverage, and not surprisingly, those with low wages.
Of particular note are senior women who often end their lives living in poverty for many reasons. Women's unpaid work makes their risk of poverty higher and results in less access to private pensions. Older women tend to have lower incomes because they live longer, which leaves them at greater risk of using up their savings as time goes by. Immigrant women are particularly vulnerable. Many over the age of 65 who lived in Canada for less than 10 years are without any income at all.
Senior women receive smaller pension incomes because of the wage difference between men and women. Most divorced women do not claim a portion of their former spouse's pension even though they are entitled to it. Many retirement plans do not compensate for absences to raise children or look after sick relatives, absences which are generally taken by women.
It is very important to emphasize here that senior women living in poverty did not end up there the day they retired. It is the poverty in their youth or the near poverty that prevented them from setting aside money for retirement. That is the real source of the problem. This motion will not come anywhere near addressing this problem. In fact, it ignores it outright, leaving the poverty cycle to continue for another generation.
If we continue to ignore the growing prosperity gap, we will never increase our national productivity. As long as people are left behind in poverty or near poverty, our whole country will suffer. By making sure that we look after those who are most in need, we can ensure that they will be productive and active members of our society. We can ensure a stronger community, stronger children and better conditions. We must allow people to live in the dignity they deserve.
This is truly what we want for Canada. It is what people deserve. It is what the people of London--Fanshawe deserve. We will all benefit. Our country and our communities will all benefit.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the House that I will be splitting my time with the member for .
It is very productive for us in this House to debate the motion being put forward by the member for .
I certainly enjoyed the discussions from the New Democratic Party as its members continue to present themselves as the opposition to the opposition and from the Conservative Party as the Conservative Party enters the winter of discontent by Canadians of its particular policies.
As we embark on a discussion about where the country needs to go, I will preface my own comments by stating that never was there a greater time or need for the Government of Canada to step in and to support and strengthen the economy of all Canadians.
Just recently in the city of Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador, a very large employer was forced to shut down a paper-making machine with a reduction of over 100 employees within the mill gate and several hundred others outside the mill gate. Its chief concern was of course not only the Canadian dollar and the high price of oil but, as well, its ability to either generate and produce cheap, clean electricity. Currently, it is forced to buy up to 30% of its power off the grid, most of that being generated at the Holyrood diesel generation plant.
I know that this company would certainly appreciate and could use beneficially any assistance to enable it to produce cheap, clean wind power, and I will be exploring that with this House on another day the need for government intervention because, of course, we are capable of that intervention.
Over the last 24-month period, due to the sound, strong economic performance of Canada, the foundations of which were laid by the Liberal government, we were able to generate $26 billion in surplus revenue.
Now if the Liberal Party of Canada and its platform and its governance model were still in place, $13 billion would have gone toward social and economic programming, with $13 billion being applied to the debt, instead of the straight rigid A meets B formula of all 100% being established toward the national debt, which has been put forward by the government.
If we look at this very tangibly, there are industrial sectors in this country that are truly in need of public infrastructure investments which all companies and all sectors of the economy could avail themselves.
Look at what happened just recently in Washington. We had the Governor of the Bank of Canada going down to the U.S. to basically plead the case that the structure of the Canadian economy was in such a state that the high value of the Canadian dollar was not warranted by the money traders. He actually made the case that the Canadian economy was not as vibrant as what was being suggested by money traders and in so making that argument, the Canadian dollar immediately went down by 1.5¢.
If the Governor of the Bank of Canada is down in Washington saying that the very nature of the structure of the Canadian economy does not have sound fundamentals then, clearly, what we need to do is to deal with that issue.
There was an opportunity here and an option that could have been supported by the government to invest in key government sectors, such as the forest products industry, and the manufacturing sector generally. It failed to do this.
As a result, we are seeing layoffs right across this entire country in our manufacturing sector. That is a shame, especially at a time when, as they age, infrastructure in our cities needs to be replaced and expanded to meet changing population demographics. Yet, we are seeing no specific response to that.
In fact, the response that we are receiving from the government is that the government should disenfranchise itself from the provinces. That, quite frankly, is irresponsible, especially when it comes to the cities and their needs and communities right across this entire country.
I know that Canadians were certainly very optimistic as to where exactly this country was going, but I sense day after day, as each and every day passes, that there is a growing uncertainty about where exactly this country is going. Canadians see a federal government disenfranchising itself from their communities, from their own lives and from their provinces.
Newfoundland and Labrador is a perfect example. A promise was made that 100% of non-renewable natural resources would be excluded from the equalization formula, with no reference to any caps being imposed on the calculation of that formula by another province in its own fiscal performance. What did we see? We saw $11 billion drained from the public purse of the people and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador as a result of that broken promise.
That is a lot of nurses, physiotherapists, nurse practitioners, doctors and other health care professionals who could have been supported and engaged in public service had that promise been kept. That is an awful lot of bridges, roads, water and sewer systems, and other green infrastructure that is now gone because that promise was broken.
We have some very serious concerns about this. We have a tremendous economic opportunity in front of us if we invest wisely. The decisions of the Government of Canada not to do so are causing pause and concern for every Canadian. I too share in that failing optimism for the future of our communities, simply because we are in a moment of time in our history when never have we been blessed with so much but have done so little with it.
It is time now for the NDP not to simply become the opposition to the opposition. It is time for the Government of Canada to govern responsibly and to engage all people.
I will tell members what is most vexing to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. When the promise was made on the equalization formula and then broken, the excuse that was given was that the government could not fulfill the promise because it did not have the consent of the provinces.
It was a promise that was made by the government when it was in opposition. It was put in writing on January 4, 2006, to the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, but it was also put in writing to each and every premier of this federation on January 15 in an open letter to the Council of the Federation, and yet the promise was broken and $11 billion was retracted from one particular province, Newfoundland and Labrador. Several other billion dollars were retracted from Nova Scotia. Saskatchewan now has a lawsuit in front of the federal government trying to get it to honour its promise.
When we look at those kinds of provocative statements coming forward, that antagonistic position, it is no wonder there is often a time when people simply sit back and reflect on whether we are going in the right direction as a country. The answer they come to is no. They want a country in which the federation supports each other and builds on its own strength but, most important, they want a government that is prepared to listen and talk to each member of the federation.
We have not had a first ministers meeting to talk about critical infrastructure needs, health care needs and post-secondary education needs since the government took office. There has never been a first ministers conference and yet the government, when it stands in this House to deliver a budget, actually has the audacity to claim that the days of federal-provincial bickering are now over.
When we have one province suing the federal government over a broken promise, three provinces engaged in a fair share campaign against the federal government and a fellow Conservative premier who is actually engaging in an ABC campaign, anything but Conservative, we are led to believe that the strength of the federation has supposedly never been better. Quite frankly, it is wrong and it is wrong by the test of any reasonable person. When we look at what is really happening with our federal-provincial relations, it is just not happening.
We have never been blessed with so much and had a government do so little with it. We have had $26 billion in annual surpluses that could have been invested, at the advice of the Governor of the Bank of Canada, to revitalize our critical industry sectors and promote jobs, but the Government of Canada did not do it. It chose simply to go in a linear action without responding to those fundamentals and, quite frankly, I think the winter of discontent is on its way.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to a very important motion on behalf of my constituents of and many other Canadians.
The motion talks about investing in Canada's future, investing in new Canadians and in their skills and qualifications, investing in research and development , investing in our young people and, most important perhaps, investing in our children, the future of our country and the future of our society.
It is unfortunate that we have seen, both from the Speech from the Throne and the previous government's track record, that despite our economic prosperity and our success within the international arena, we have failed to invest in our future.
When we look at our economic performance as a country, we realize that we have one of the best track records in the G-7. We are one of the ninth largest economies on the planet. Our provinces continue to produce a fiscal surplus and unemployment is at a 30-year low. We have that track record due to the tremendous fiscal management of Liberal governments. We have that track record because the former Liberal government had a vision for all Canadians, regardless of where they came from in the world and regardless of their socio-economic status.
Despite all the glowing successes I have spoken about in terms of our economic productivity and our economic track record, perhaps what is most discouraging is the fact that the gap between the rich and the poor has continued to grow. Despite our economic success and our economic growth, at a point in time when the gap should be getting smaller, the gap is actually increasing. It has grown faster in the last decade than at any point in time in the last 30 years.
In 2004, the richest 10% of Canadian families who raised children under the age of 18 actually earned 82 times more than the poorest 10% of our population. When we look at the facts, we see that the majority of Canadians, over 80%, are actually getting a smaller share of the economy that they help generate.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has done a tremendous amount of work looking at alternatives for actually close the gap between the rich and the poor. That is why it is so important for this particular motion. The fact is that the average pay of the top 100 CEOs in Canada actually increased from $3.5 million to $9 million between 1998 and 2005, a 262% increase.
One wonders what the average wage is in Canada. Wages actually increased between 1998 and 2005 from $32,000 to $38,000. While the CEOs had a 262% increase, the average worker only had an 18% increase. The gap is growing and it is growing quickly.
That is why it is so important that the motion is about investing, about closing the gap and about ensuring that the over half a million seniors and the over one million children living in poverty do so no more. However, for that to happen, we need to have a government with a vision, a government that is committed to closing that gap and a government that is committed to investing.
It was quite interesting when the government spoke about reducing the GST. If the Conservatives had done the math, they would have realized that the proposed cut of 1% on the GST would have resulted in every child in Canada between the ages of three and six having access to a child care space.
Harper has spoken about--
The has spoken about his plans to legislate limits to the federal spending power, but all of us have to wonder about this continued hostility toward social programs, hostility that he championed when he was head of the National Citizens Coalition, a hostility that he demonstrated when he cancelled the child care and early learning agreements that had been negotiated with the provinces. These agreements would have provided children and families with an opportunity to invest in early learning.
This hostility and the federal spending power mechanism that he speaks about will jeopardize medicare. It will continue to jeopardize national programs, like child care, which are of prime importance to Canadian families.
Code Blue for Child Care, which has done a tremendous job advocating and speaking up on behalf of Canadian families and Canada's children, wrote a letter recently. It stated:
|| The Tories are misusing Quebecers’ desire to control their own social institutions to cover their actions...[even though] Parliament has all the practical tools it requires to both protect and expand social programs while respecting Quebec’s distinct status.
It goes on to talk about the fact that the government has also given out $1,200 to Canadian families for child care. However, that $1,200, broken down to $100 a month, is taxable.
Therefore, parents have been left with almost $60 a month. They have been left to fend for themselves. This is why the gap in our country continues to grow.
We talk about the fact that the government committed to producing child care spaces, 125,000 of them, but yet again it is another broken promise. When we look at this today, October 2007, not a single child care space has been produced.
Under the previous Liberal government, early learning and child care agreements were reached with all 10 provinces and would have ensured quality, universal, accessible and affordable child care for all Canadian families. Instead, parents and families are being left to fend for themselves. Mothers or fathers, who may want to participate in the workforce, have been denied that opportunity because they are unable to find access to a child care space.
I take a look at my own riding of . I meet with constituents on a regular basis. They have been unable to find access to quality child care. Unfortunately, despite our many surpluses, we are failing to invest in children and in early learning and child care.
We have to ask ourselves this. If those agreements had not been cut by the government, every riding would have had access to over 266 additional early learning and child care spaces.
All of us have read the research. Study after study has concluded that a good start in life gives children a leg up, regardless of their family socio-economic status. Positive early experiences will help children build self-esteem, confidence, physical and emotional well-being and have the ability to cooperate and socialize.
Today in Toronto, in an era of surpluses, both at the provincial and the federal level, the city of Toronto is talking about cutting back or closing skating rink, swimming pools and community centres for children. Why is this happening in an era prosperity, growth, success and surplus at the federal level? All the money the government is trying to save right now is going to be spent on guns, gangs and violence. We need to invest in our children and we need to do it now. That is why the motion speaks to investing in education.
We all realize that quality early learning and child care is an important part of every child and their upbringing. More than 73% of mothers with children under age six are in the workforce.
On behalf of so many Canadian families and children, I ask that we invest in them and that we do it today. We must not think about doing it tomorrow, or a month after, or a year after. Despite the fact that the government has inherited a surplus, it continues to cut back billions of dollars in programs and services that matter to Canadians, that matter to our children.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my good friend the member for .
I am pleased to speak to today's motion because it allows me a chance to talk about what Canada's Conservative government is doing to support a more competitive and productive economy through investments in new technologies, research and development.
Countries that invest aggressively in innovation have the strongest and the most productive economies in the world. Countries that invest aggressively in innovation find solutions to environment, health and other pressing challenges. Simply put, countries that invest aggressively in innovation have high standards of living and a high quality of life.
Canada needs to take the steps now to ensure that we maintain a strong economy through scientific discovery and technological advances so we can seize the extraordinary potential of our great country to be a positive force in the world. This is why on May 17 the released our historic science and technology strategy.
Our approach to science and technology is underlined by four important principles.
First, our policies and programs will inspire and assist Canadians to perform at world-class levels of scientific and technological excellence. World-class research excellence is Canada's standard.
Second, we will strategically target funding in areas of national strength and opportunity. Let me be clear. That does not mean abandoning our commitment to basic research across a broad spectrum of disciplines. We understand the importance of supporting the very best ideas wherever they arise. At the same time we must be practical. Canada is a comparatively small country and we must target more of our basic and applied research in areas where we are well positioned to make a difference in the world.
Third, the Government of Canada will foster partnerships. Partnerships involving business, academic and public sectors at home and abroad are essential to lever Canada's efforts into world-class successes and accelerate the pace of discovery and innovation. Through partnerships, the unique capabilities, interests and resources of various stakeholders can be brought together to deliver better outcomes.
After 13 years of Liberal corruption and waste, this Conservative government has turned over a new leaf of accountability. Therefore, accountability is the fourth principle of the S and T strategy. We have been clear. Those who are supported by public funds will be held accountable for demonstrating to taxpayers that results are being achieved.
Guided by these principles, our science and technology strategy seeks to create three distinct Canadian advantages: first, an entrepreneurial advantage that encourages firms to be innovators; second, a knowledge advantage that keeps Canadians at the forefront of research and discovery; and third, is a people advantage that helps Canadians acquire the skills they need to participate in the knowledge based economy.
Despite the Liberal's rhetoric, the Conservative government has invested more than $9 billion annually to support science and technology. On top of that, there are tax incentives available to Canadian businesses that invest in research and development valued at $3 billion a year. It was the leaderless Liberals who voted against more than $11 billion a year in R and D investment.
The government's S and T strategy articulates a comprehensive vision of how the government can use the work of its departments, its expenditures and its policies to create a more productive and competitive economy. It sets out a multi-year agenda, and we are moving quickly to implement this agenda.
Budget 2007 announced $1.9 billion in new S and T initiatives. These initiatives will empower scientists to investigate and entrepreneurs to innovate. To repeat, it was the leaderless Liberals who voted against this measure.
To create an entrepreneurial advantage, we need effective federal policies and laws that encourage companies to compete on the basis of innovation and invest in R and D and innovation. The most important role of the Government of Canada is to ensure a competitive marketplace and create an investment climate that encourages the private sector to compete against the world on the basis of its innovative products, services and technologies.
Our S and T strategy does this with ongoing reductions in corporate taxes, by establishing the lowest rate of tax on new business investment through smart regulation and by increasing the supply of foreign venture capital to support Canada's most innovative firms, measures the leaderless Liberals voted against.
My colleagues, the and the , are leading the review of the $3 billion a year SR and ED tax expenditure in support of business R and D to identify opportunities to increase its impact.
Furthermore, this Conservative government appointed Red Wilson to lead a blue chip review of Canada's competition and investment policies to ensure that they are working effectively, allowing us to encourage even greater foreign investment and create more and better jobs for Canadians.
We are helping companies partner with universities and colleges to access the research networks, facilities and young research talent they need to succeed. Our new centres of excellence in commercialization and research program will help build critical mass in priority areas.
Our new business led networks of centres of excellence program will connect inspiring entrepreneurs and researchers. I know this will bring out the very best that Canadians have to offer the world.
As I mentioned, our S and T strategy also seeks to sustain a knowledge advantage. Our budget 2007 commitments will sustain Canada's leadership position in the G-7 and public sector R and D performance.
On top of the $2.7 billion the Government of Canada already funds in university R and D, we are investing an additional $85 million a year in three federal granting councils to achieve world-class excellence in four priority research areas: natural resources and energy; environmental sciences and technologies; health and life sciences; and information and communications technologies.
We are also ensuring that Canadian researchers continue to have the best research equipment and facilities available through a $510 million additional investment in the Canada Foundation for Innovation.
We are investing an additional $100 million in Genome Canada and $500 million in Sustainable Development Technology Canada to keep Canadians at the forefront in these important areas.
The third advantage this S and T strategy encourages is a people advantage. Access to talented, skilled and creative people lies at the heart of our vision of building a sustainable national competitive advantage based on science and technology. We will make sure that Canada has the highly skilled people it needs to thrive in a modern global economy.
We are creating new scholarships and industrial internships to support promising young Canadians who are studying hard to develop the skills that our businesses need. Once fully operational, we will be supporting 1,000 new scholarships and 1,000 new interns each and every year. At the same time, we will continue to reduce personal income taxes and make the tax system fairer, so that Canada can attract and retain the highly skilled workers we need to foster innovation and growth.
Science and technology is at the heart of this Conservative government's economic plan. The Conservative government's S and T strategy is a multi-year innovation plan. I can assure all members that our work will improve our nation. We will continue to build a competitive advantage for Canada based on science and technology. We will continue to be guided by the principles of excellence, priorities, partnerships and accountability.
This Conservative government is getting the job done to ensure that Canada can seize its potential in the world and be an innovation leader.
On behalf of the people of Oshawa, I am so pleased to be part of this S and T strategy. We are taking advantage of it now in our manufacturing sector and in our universities. I encourage all members to support us.
Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I stand in the House today to talk about the importance of public infrastructure to help drive the Canadian economy. It is a very important issue.
Last week in the Speech from the Throne, our government reaffirmed its deep commitment to infrastructure. We all know that infrastructure investment is vital to Canada's future prosperity. Infrastructure is in fact the motor of productivity. It promotes trade, stimulates economic growth, ensures strong communities, and something important to me and most Canadians, a healthy environment. Infrastructure helps directly our environment.
That is why the Conservative government is moving forward to implement its building Canada plan. It is a plan that involves a historic effort that is without precedent in this great country on the part of the federal government. This plan will invest $33 billion to renew Canada's public infrastructure over the next seven years. This plan will deliver results that matter to Canadians. Some of those results include faster commutes, cleaner water, cleaner air, and safer roads and bridges. They are very important issues to Canadians.
This government understands how important it is to provide the provinces, territories and municipalities with the ability to plan for the future. Imagine in our own households not knowing what was coming in next month, next week or next year. That is why over 50% of the funding provided under building Canada, a total of more than $17 billion, is base funding for municipalities. This includes the extension of the gas tax fund until 2014 for which payments to municipalities will total $2 billion a year starting in 2010.
The plan also includes funding of $25 million a year for each and every province and territory. This will provide a significant and reliable amount of funding to help the provinces and territories address infrastructure priorities and to know well in advance what money they have in order to pay for the groceries. This will include national priorities of this government, like clean water, the national highway system that stretches from coast to coast, transit and green energy. Over the course of seven years this amounts to more than $2.2 billion nationally. It is great news for Canadians.
We listen to Canadians. That is why our government has made the protection and promotion of a clean environment a key national objective. Investment in infrastructure can indeed be a powerful tool in attaining environmental objectives.
The plan will continue to contribute to the growth of public transit which is so important in our larger cities and which is one of the plan's top five priorities. In this we will continue on the path shown through our additional investments in transit in the greater Toronto area, in Vancouver and in Calgary.
Through the gas tax fund alone we will provide $11.8 billion over the next seven years to Canadian cities and communities. It is great news for our cities. This funding can also apply to environmentally sustainable infrastructure which includes transit.
In the Speech from the Throne we made a clear commitment through our building Canada plan to clean up contaminated sites and promote brownfield redevelopment. This will help improve Canada's infrastructure and will help Canadians health be better. I was shocked to learn when I came to the House that we have somewhere in the range of 20,000 contaminated sites in this country. It is an embarrassing record and something which the government is taking positive steps to remedy.
A major component of the building Canada plan is of course the $8.8 billion building Canada fund. The fund actually focuses on strategic infrastructure projects that will deliver economic, environmental and social benefits for all Canadians at the national and local levels. It is great news for all Canadians.
A good example is that on October 15 we announced a commitment of up to $50 million to the clean water Huron Elgin London project. This initiative will improve clean drinking water access to half a million residents in some 20 southwestern Ontario municipalities. It is great news for the people of Ontario.
As well, we all know the importance of access to technology, particularly the broadband, to communities. This Conservative government has taken positive steps in that direction. We are clearly committed to helping communities have access to this important tool. Just a couple of weeks ago, together with the government of Nova Scotia, the federal government made a clear commitment to help provide 100% broadband coverage in Nova Scotia by 2009. It is great news for Nova Scotians. This complements other broadband investments we are making in the north.
Our plan provides for implementation of a public-private partnerships fund with a budget of $1.25 billion. Through this fund, we are taking a leadership role in developing P3 opportunities throughout the country. This will extend and increase the amount of money available for infrastructure projects, which is really going to help Canadians enjoy a better quality of life.
Last, our plan includes the gateways and border crossings fund with a budget of $2.1 billion, in addition to new and continued funding allocated in budget 2007 for the Asia Pacific gateway and corridor initiative. It now totals over $1 billion, which is great news for western Canadians, especially those in British Columbia.
In the past few months our government has signed two memoranda of understanding with six provincial governments. It is an example of a federal government that can get along with its provincial counterparts and actually get positive results for Canadians from coast to coast to coast. These agreements commit us to a study of strategic ports and commercial corridors in central and Atlantic Canada.
As we stated in our Speech from the Throne, the government will soon be announcing further details on how our building Canada plan's $33 billion will be invested. In the meantime, money is already flowing to communities through the gas tax fund and the 100% GST rebate.
Municipalities across the country are already using this fund to help meet their infrastructure needs. Whether it is the expansion of the TransLink fleet in Vancouver, British Columbia, or water projects across the river from here in Gatineau, Quebec, the Conservative government is delivering positive results for all Canadians.
What we are doing with our building Canada plan goes well beyond the Government of Canada's financial contribution to infrastructure. What we are doing is helping build the Canada of the 21st century, a Canada that will be stronger, safer and better. This is great news for all Canadians and a reflection of what Canadians tell us they want.
Along with other levels of government and the private sector, our building Canada plan will inject more than $50 billion--that is right, $50 billion--to ramp up all the infrastructure in this country. As all members in the House are aware, we have an infrastructure deficit of over $100 billion, as identified by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. The Conservative government has listened to Canadians and is moving forward to fix that deficit.
The previous Liberal government left us with history's most challenging infrastructure gap. We are taking action as a government that listens to Canadians to speed up world class infrastructure for Canada and for all Canadians. We are delivering, for the first time in Canadian history, the long term, predictable funding that has been asked for by the municipalities. That is what provinces, cities and communities are looking forward to, want and are going to get, because this government delivers results.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my neighbour to the south, the member of Parliament for .
I want to say how pleased I am today to participate in this very important debate about two issues that I think speak to the future of the country and our ability to provide the standard of living and quality of life that Canadians rightly demand of our country and indeed of our governments.
I have had occasion over my career to sit on both sides of the House, and sitting here and listening to the various speeches on both sides reminds me of the story of two governments. I must say that I am quite envious of the Conservative government, because it inherited a wonderful opportunity to build even a better country.
Unfortunately, the story I need to tell is the one about what we were left with. We were left with a $42 billion deficit, high unemployment and high interest rates. Those were very difficult times. It would have been easy for us to throw up our arms in despair. Instead, we chose to roll up our sleeves and we brought about a phenomenal Canadian economic renaissance.
What did we do? I say this to remind Canadians of the excellent economic record of our government. We eliminated the deficit. We paid down the debt. We introduced the largest tax cut in Canadian history. We did not raise taxes, which is in juxtaposition to the present government. We did not raise taxes on low income Canadians; we lowered them. We lowered business and corporate taxes because it made sense, particularly in this particular debate on competitiveness and productivity.
We committed over $12 billion in new funding for research. It was interesting to note that an earlier speaker on the government's side said that Canada leads in research and development. That is true, but we on this side actually set that record. That is a fundamental difference between our record and theirs.
I guess the Conservatives have had the opportunities to show their stuff, as we say, early on in their government cycle. What did Canadians see? The version of the Conservative Party's view on increasing productivity is to actually make cuts in human resources development, literacy programs and post-secondary education. All those things are very important ingredients in developing a competitive strategy in a productivity enhancement plan for the country.
However, early on, we saw that although the Conservatives raised the taxes on low income Canadians, they also participated in the income trust fiasco, the fiasco that really wiped out $25 billion in investments for thousands of small investors.
The other issue that I will raise now is the issue of interest deductibility, described by some people as the worst tax policy in 35 years, which essentially would have sent our businesses out into the international marketplace with one hand tied behind their backs.
Therefore, I wonder whether the Conservative government understands that it has to really change its view on how to increase the productivity and competitiveness of a country. That is not done by sending the wrong signals to the markets. That is not done by hindering the potential of our businesses, because at the end of the day, it is our businesses in the private sector that are generating these jobs.
We learned that early on. We did all we could as a government to empower the private sector to generate jobs and we were very successful. We were able to lower the unemployment rate from double digits to create over three million jobs. That is the sort of record that we had.
When we look at other statistics, we invested billions in post-secondary education. On the corporate tax side to generate economic growth, to reward individuals and businesses, we lowered taxes. On the corporate tax side the Liberals reduced the tax rate from 28% to 21%. That spurred on economic activity. What was interesting was that the lower the taxes, the more revenue we generated for the government.
The facts speak for themselves. The Conservatives have had a year and some odd months in power and they have already made serious mistakes. Canadians are wondering, actually they are beyond wondering, they are beginning to believe that in fact the Conservatives lack the competence in economic management to bring about the type of changes that we were able to build.
We wonder whether the Conservatives have learned anything. The first thing we did was we established a very stable economy: low interest rates, low inflation, paid down the debt. We also did something else. It was not just about taxes and getting the macro-economic environment right. We also invested in people. We cannot be productive as a nation if we do not invest and put people first in our agenda.
The great opportunity that we have had and which was clearly illustrated during our years in office was the way we dealt with the issue of labour as it relates to the marketplace and as it relates to immigration. The long term issue that we face in this country is indeed an aging society. Immigrants and aboriginal Canadians provide our greatest hope to address skill shortages. Almost 100% of all new labour opportunities as it relates to human resources will be through immigration.
On an issue related to immigration, what in fact did the Tories--I should not say the Tories--what did the Conservatives, the Reform Alliance do on the accreditation of foreign credentials? We have seen a cut in investments in that area. We wonder why that would happen. Do they prefer not maximizing the human resources potential of immigrants? Is that what that government is about? Why cut in that area? Why cut literacy programs? It is almost inconceivable that they would engage in the type of cuts that reduce opportunities for people in this country, particularly those whom we will depend upon to give us the type of skills that this country and the marketplace require.
I cannot cover all the areas because of the time restrictions, but I can tell the House that I have not been at all impressed with the Conservative government. I have not been impressed with the way the Conservatives dealt with issues like interest deductibility. I am also not very impressed with the fact that they do not realize that at the end of the day we have to invest in research and development, we have to invest in people, we have to invest in post-secondary education because the wealth of our country, the wealth of our future will be generated by ideas that come from between our ears. To not recognize that is a major flaw.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to discuss this motion. In fact, I want to read it into the record so that those who are watching are fully aware of exactly what it is that we are discussing today. We are discussing the following motion:
|| That, in the opinion of this House, while reducing personal taxes and significantly reducing corporate taxes to make the economy more competitive, and reducing debt, the government must also drive greater Canadian productivity by making investments in things such as:
||physical infrastructure, new technologies, research and development, better access to post-secondary education, making it easier for immigrants to use their skills and increasing the number of skilled workers in Canada; and the government must avoid making mistakes such as breaking its promises not to tax income trusts, eliminating interest deductibility and proposing to end prudence from the federal budgeting process.
All of those are very important issues that we on this side of the House want to make sure we bring to the attention of the Canadian public.
My speech today is going to be twofold. First, I want to take the opportunity to remind the House and everyone watching at home, including my constituents in York West, of the outstanding progress that the Liberal government made on so many of those very files during the nearly 13 years that it was in office. Then, if I have any time left, I will attempt to summarize some of the many breaches of trust and broken promises to which the minority Conservative government has subjected Canadians.
The Liberal government struck a fantastic new deal for cities, which I was very much a part of and on which I worked very hard. Our cities across Canada were very much in need of that. We pledged $5 billion over five years in gas tax revenues to help cities and communities, something they are currently enjoying because of the Liberal government. This would have risen to $2 billion annually thereafter. We will have to wait to see if that is still on the agenda.
As part of the new deal, the Liberal government also committed to investing up to $800 million to improve public transit nationwide, something that we continue to hear about. We know how important it is when dealing with a variety of environmental issues.
We signed 12 provincial and territorial gas tax agreements. More than 95% of Canadians living in municipalities would have benefited from $600 million in funding in 2006 alone.
The Liberals' budget 2004 included a full GST rebate for cities and communities, freeing up $7 billion for municipal investments across Canada over the next 10 years, something they very much needed. Our budget 2005 also committed to renewing the $4 billion Canada strategic infrastructure fund to continue to give municipalities the funding they needed to improve local infrastructure and for local investments.
We know that the cities are the hearts of our communities and certainly need the ongoing support from all of us in the federal government. I have yet to hear any of that in the throne speech or in any of the intentions of the government today.
In fact, the Liberals designed infrastructure programs that delivered over $12 billion in funding from 1993 to 2005. The Conservatives have tried to reannounce our projects and all kinds of funding, but Canadians are not fooled. I asked the last session how many buses and railcars we could buy with his empty promises. There is still no answer on that one and there are still no more buses or railcars.
We all know that research and development is critical to Canada's future. The Liberal government had committed more than $3 billion for research and regional development and pledged to invest $810 million over six years in ideas and enabling technology, which is Canada's future and its strength.
The Liberals' investments for the three federal granting councils, federally funded research universities and hospitals and genomics research are helping to position Canada as a world leader in research and development. These investments continue to be critical for our country to continue to be a leader in R and D and to attract and retain the best and the brightest.
The Liberal government pledged $200 million in sustainable energy, science and technology, and more than $2 billion to help strengthen Canada's ability to prosper in a global knowledge-based economy, with an increased emphasis on new funding for university-based research.
While we are speaking of universities, the Liberal government knew how important it was to invest in Canada's future through post-secondary education. Many of us have met with students who have their lobby week here on the Hill and they have stressed to us just how important it is for more investment.
We Liberals know that we must invest in our students and ensure that they have the tools they need to succeed in life. In fact, in our 2006 election platform we had proposed to expand Canada access grants to cover all four years of study.
We also had proposed to develop a fifty-fifty plan which would have paid for half of the tuition of all Canadian students for both first and last year of study, and to conduct a comprehensive review of student assistance in order to ensure that everyone has access to a university education to help build our great country. We also committed to provide additional funding for Canadian students studying abroad and to make a 50% increase in funding for graduate scholarships.
These Liberal initiatives were very popular in my riding of York West where I am proud to say I have the great York University, home to many students who are really leading the way here in Canada.
Just this week I had the opportunity to meet with students from York University through a meeting set up by the Canadian Federation of Students. They were clearly concerned about, “the lack of needed attention given to post-secondary education by the current government”. Two students from York University, Ben Keen and Fuad Abdi, also drew to my attention the need for a new grants program to replace the millennium scholarship foundation, which will expire in 2009.
What is the Conservative government currently doing to help post-secondary students? I went through the throne speech and it was shocking to find that the words “students” and “post-secondary” do not even appear in the government's document. I guess that was just another oversight on its part.
The Liberal government was acting to help students. Here are some additional examples. In 2004, my Liberal government established a new Canada learning bond to help lower income families save for post-secondary education.
In November 2005, we also committed $550 million to extend Canada access grants to 55,000 students from low income families in all years of undergraduate studies. For graduate students, we had committed $210 million to increase the number of available Canada graduate scholarships.
We had committed to investing $2.2 billion over five years for student financial assistance to address access, affordability, debt management, and service delivery. Members can tell where our priorities clearly were.
To support the capacity of Canada's universities and colleges and to provide high quality post-secondary education, we earmarked $1 billion for post-secondary infrastructure, another high pressure item that we were hearing about from all universities across Canada.
We were also investing more than $10 billion in programs to provide better opportunities for Canadians, including $4 billion more for post-secondary education. But the Conservatives have turned their backs on post-secondary education.
Students are not the only people the Conservatives have turned their backs on. Many seniors have also suffered at the hands of this government and the and his trusty sidekick the . The Prime Minister promised that his government would not tax income trusts, and that is exactly what he did, thereby costing seniors and other people $25 billion in lost income.
I am glad to have had an opportunity to get some points across on how important our productivity agenda is and how important it is to continue to build Canada and to invest in Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I have looked at the Liberal motion and two points stand out. First, the motion calls on the government to significantly reduce corporate taxes in order to make the economy more competitive. Second, the motion calls for investments in physical infrastructure, new technologies and research and development.
I would like to point out that we are talking about industries and tax reductions. When we talk about industries, these tax reductions apply to all companies, even the oil companies. In my humble opinion and the opinion of some people in my riding, these companies are already making money hand over fist. They do not have the same sort of problems as other companies, and yet they are given tax breaks. I think it is absurd.
This House is aware that in February 2007 the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology released a report containing 22 recommendations. As I said, it was released in February 2007, and the budget was tabled in March 2007. How did the government respond to those 22 recommendations?
I would remind this House that work on the report began in May 2006. I sit on the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, and it has been working since then on the issue of industries because of the rising dollar, the increase in oil prices and all the problems facing industry. All the political parties have worked to find solutions to the problems affecting Canadian and Quebec companies and to save them from the impact of emerging countries such as China.
As we know, many people work on a committee. Our committee has at least 15 members, apart from the translators. In all, about 20 people work on this committee.
It took from May to February, nearly a year, to prepare a report containing 22 recommendations. When the budget was brought down in March, the month after these recommendations were made, not one complete recommendation, not even half a recommendation, was adopted. The only recommendation that was adopted in part was the first one, which called for depreciation over five years.
What did the Conservatives do as a good government? They accepted the first recommendation and spread it out over two years. They did not even cut it by half; they cut it by more than half. After working for one year, they took one recommendation and cut it by half. I wonder whether or not the work done in this House is productive? Is the government listening?
Furthermore, this report was adopted by a majority. All political parties agree that these recommendations should be adopted and implemented. But no, none of these recommendations, with the exception of half of one, were retained.
Let us move forward in time to the throne speech. Almost every MP received a copy of the letter from the Canadian Manufacturing Coalition addressed to the Prime Minister. I will read an excerpt from that letter.
|| We are writing as the representatives of Canada’s leading value-adding industries to acknowledge the initiatives that your government has taken in support of Canadian manufacturing. We now urge you to go further by making manufacturing a priority in the upcoming Speech from the Throne, and implementing on an urgent basis the 22 recommendations unanimously agreed to by all parties in the report on manufacturing competitiveness tabled earlier this year by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science, and Technology.
Canadian manufacturing industries are in jeopardy. The only party in this House that cannot see that is the Conservative Party. They have no idea. They think they can just let things be and people will work things out. Not so, according to the coalition, which says that we will not get out of this alone and that the government should do something to help. Unfortunately, the government is doing nothing at all to help.
Like their counterparts the world over, Canadian manufacturers have to respond to market globalization. We must not forget that this is about globalization, and I will come back to that. They also have to deal with the emergence of a number of newly industrialized manufacturing powerhouses, such as China, India and Brazil, and with the shortage of skilled labour.
The committee was directed to analyze the entire manufacturing sector, and when it released its report, the Canadian dollar was worth 80¢. Now the dollar is worth $1.03. At the time, everyone thought that the price of gas, at 85¢ per litre, was exorbitant, but now it costs 96¢ per litre, and sometimes as much as $1 or $1.04 per litre.
There is a growing gap between our industries and the emerging nations. Yet our government is doing nothing about it. As my colleague, the member for , might say, “zip, zilch, zero”.
This is a strong statement. Members of the Canadian Manufacturing Coalition include Serge Lavoie of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association, Bob Elliott of the Canadian Printing Industries Association, Ron Watkins of the Canadian Steel Producers Association, Mark Nantais of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, and Pierre Boucher of the Cement Association of Canada. Over 20 presidents of various associations signed the letter, hoping that the government will not negate their year-long effort to develop these 22 recommendations by following up on just one of them, and then only halfway. I think that the presidents of these associations are smart enough to recognize the work accomplished by the committee. They want the government to implement their recommendations.
Despite job losses in industry, the Conservative government insists that everything is fine, that there is no problem, that there are hundreds of jobs out there. Sure there are hundreds of jobs out there. All along the highway, there are signs saying, “We're hiring”.
Something else to consider, however, is an article published in yesterday's Journal de Montréal. Our current situation is often compared to that of the baby boomers in their day. The article states:
|| The Institut de la statistique du Québec just published a comprehensive study on the pay and working conditions of young workers aged 15 to 29. Entitled “Réalités des jeunes sur le marché du travail en 2005”, the report methodically details the participation of today's youth in the labour market, the characteristics of their jobs and their working conditions.
The article concludes:
|| The only problem: although today's youth have more jobs available to them than the baby boomers did in their day, the quality of these jobs is often inferior.
|| For instance, highly paid jobs in the manufacturing sector, which employed 24.5% of young people in 1976, today represents only 15% of their employment. Conversely, the hotel and restaurant sector employed only 4.6% of young people in 1976 and now provides work for 11.3%.
Is there a difference between the pay in manufacturing jobs and the pay in hospitality jobs? Yes, there is a difference. Indeed, it pays much better to work in the manufacturing sector than in the restaurant sector, by about $7.25 an hour.
If the government wants to do something, in some way, to help not only Canadian industry but especially industry in Quebec, it must stop playing at the peewee level. It must show some backbone. Not only must the government recognize that members have unanimously supported the recommendations, but it must implement them. However, it refuses to do this.
As for the emerging countries, my colleague, the hon. member for—